NEW ORLEANS - "I've always wanted to be normal," Randy Moss said Tuesday from a podium in the Louisiana Superdome.
During Media Day at Super Bowl XVVII, Moss wore a 49ers hat cocked to the side, a scrubby growth of beard and a wry smile for an hour of give-and-take with the media.
An unusual player, an unusual guy happily trapped for 60 minutes, giving his Moss-ian world view.
If he'd been like this more often -- less prickly with the media, making a greater effort to endear himself -- maybe he'd be lionized like Ray Lewis. But Moss is going to do what Moss is going to do. Remaining real -- i.e., his own man at all times -- hasn't made his life any easier. But it has made him one of the more compelling NFL players in terms of impact on the game, younger players and fans.
He is beloved and the people who like him least are the people he held court for on Tuesday.
"I live for myself," Moss said when I asked him why he's been so reluctant to share himself. "The thing about the media is that, everything is not said and the truth is not always told. I grew up respecting myself. I do respect other people. But when it comes to the pen and pad that you guys are writing on right now, it's just . . . you got a job to do and papers to sell. I've never come off negative. A lot of people see my focus. I don't like anything that comes outside of football to get in the way of the game."
If you parse his words, you can certainly find times in Moss' 15-year career where he's let things outside football get in the way. But those have been the exceptions, not the rule.
He's generally been about football and being with his teammates. Not selling himself or being seen at clubs or currying endorsements. Those attendant sidelights that some players embrace are, according to Moss, irritations.
"I love the game, I love to play in between the white lines," he said. "It's like a kid at school. You're sitting in the classroom and the teacher says it's recess and that door opens and all the kids just go running and screaming and jumping on swing sets and swinging. That's how I try to treat the football.
"Anytime that I step on the field, that's when I feel free," Moss added. "I can do anything I want, act any way I want because you're having fun and it's all a game. It's just like you and me sitting down to play a game of Monopoly. I love to compete and keep it near my heart."
At one point Tuesday, Moss described himself as the NFL's greatest receiver of all time.
Jerry Rice could make a convincing case otherwise. And Rice did recommend on Tuesday that Moss check the numbers. But Moss may well be, as Tom Brady often described him, the greatest downfield threat in NFL history.
In 218 regular-season NFL games, Moss has made 982 catches for 15,292 yards with 156 touchdowns. In 14 playoff games, he's caught another 52 balls for 936 yards and 10 touchdowns.
In his only previous Super Bowl, the ill-fated SB42 with the Patriots, Moss caught the go-ahead touchdown for the Patriots with 2:42 remaining.
While Lewis figuratively rides his chariot down Bourbon Street to celebrate the end of his Hall of Fame career, Moss toils on. On Tuesday, he said he wants to keep playing.
Why not jump spend the week referencing his own "legacy," as Lewis did Tuesday without a trace of self-awareness?
"That's not me," said Moss. "I'm not a celebrater. I love to do my work and go home. A lot of people see me out there in public . . . man, I've always wanted to be normal. For my whole life from elementary school up to now . . . I've been a big fan of Michael Jackson. I remember his sister or brother saying, 'Michael always just wanted to be normal.' I'm not putting myself on Michael Jackson's level, but I understood where they were coming from, I always wanted to go to the park and play a game or go shopping or go to the grocery store.
"I've always wanted to be normal," he reiterated. "Whenever people see me and they're overwhelmed that they're meeting me for the first time, I just want them to know that I'm normal. Hopefully one day, all of this will just die down and I can go play a pickup game or go to the grocery store and be normal."